Legal Guide

How Long Does a Felony Stay on Record?

According to statistics, between 70 and 100 million Americans have a criminal record. This translates to around one in three Americans. 

Having a criminal record can work against you in several ways. Your criminal record will show in a background check, meaning it could ruin your chances of getting a job or renting housing. The higher the severity of the crime, the higher the impact it will have on your life. 

A Criminal Record Can Ruin Your Life

Most minor offenses fall in the class of misdemeanors, which at most carry a sentence of up to two years upon conviction. Felonies, on the other hand, refer to crimes with penalties of more than two years upon conviction. If your record has a felony conviction, it can significantly affect your life.

Some states prohibit the discrimination of job seekers based on criminal history. However, federal law does not. Still, employers will almost always avoid hiring candidates convicted of a serious offense because they could be liable for damages resulting from the employee's actions. 

Also, the law prohibits convicts of certain offenses from working in some sectors. For example, convicted sex crime offenders cannot work in a hospital, school, or any facility or business where children frequent, like an amusement park. After a conviction for a sex crime, the offender automatically loses their practice license if they were a teacher, doctor, nurse, or an employee in any industry that caters to vulnerable persons. 

Expungement May Be the Only Way Out

A criminal act can stay on a person's record for their lifetime, especially for crimes such as DUI, murder, sexual offenses, robbery with violence, and other violent crimes. 

In some states like Florida, criminal records of specific groups of crimes fall off the person's record after a specified period from conviction or the date of satisfying the court's direction at sentencing. In other states, a criminal record could also last a lifetime if the person doesn't put effort into having their record expunged or sealed. 

Expungement or the sealing of a criminal record refers to the process of cleaning up a person's criminal record. While the two terms are used interchangeably, they can mean different things in different states. 

The Expungement Process

"The expungement process can be quite technical, and a small mistake can see your petition denied even when you qualify for an expungement," says criminal defense attorney Teresa DiNardi

The first step to having your criminal record expunged is petitioning the court. After filing the petition and providing the court with information proving your eligibility, the court may grant the petition for misdemeanors but may require a hearing for felonies. 

After the hearing, the judge presumes to allow or disallow a petition. If a judge allows your petition, the court will give an order to have your criminal history struck from your record. Depending on your state, having your record struck off could mean having your criminal record removed from the public record, which means it cannot reflect in background checks. In some states, an expungement could mean having the form struck from all records just like you never had one.

Since some crimes do not qualify for expungement, your best chance at maintaining a clean record will be avoiding getting one in the first place by involving a lawyer when facing charges for serious criminal offenses.

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